Earning online was one of the best things that happened in my life. Thinking of doing a regular job and grinding like an animal on low pay on someone’s order is not my thing.
So, right at the end of my graduation(Yeah, I am another Engineer😁), I built a niche website to try my fortune. Things were pretty unclear at the very beginning and I made a lot of mistakes that I still regret in course of my journey. But I have learned that there is no better teacher than your own mistakes.
Now, keeping these struggles aside, I have a personal journey to explain what many people dream of and what many are living right now(far better than mine).
It changed my life and made me a kind of introvert but being able to continue this journey for around 8 years successfully, I don’t regret my choice and I feel grateful to God for whatever I have.
In this post, I am going to share my blogging journey which made more than $150,000 in 6 years. This is definitely not the best you will see but if a newbie like me can do it, surely you can do it too.
I hope this case study will give you some motivational boost to start your own journey and avoid the mistakes I did.
Buying Domain And Hosting
As every other blogging journey starts, mine started with buying a domain name and hosting. I still thank Harsh Aggrawal from whose blog I learned a lot.
To go cheap, I chose Godaddy for both domain name and hosting. I chose a shared hosting plan for one year with a brand-new domain.
It was going pretty well at first but as my traffic improved, the site was loading super slow. In short, Godaddy’s hosting sucks. So, I switched to Siteground but it was proving to be too costly and it was still not what I was looking for.
I again switched my hosting to Cloudways which is an excellent host but expensive. I also used Cloudflare for speeding up the website and WP Rocket Plugin to further enhance the speed.
All of these additions were done gradually. If you are on a tight budget, you can also use Digital Ocean Cloud hosting which is super fast and can get you a decent cloud server for less than $10 and get $200 credit for 60 days.
I installed WordPress and used a free theme. Once, I started generating some decent income, I bought a better and more premium theme. However, as a beginner, it is always recommended to start with a free theme unless it is not fulfilling your needs.
The Content Generation Phase
Like any other niche website, the first step was to create some content to warm up the site.
It was a Technology niche and I did not know how many articles I had to write and how much time will it take to rank in the SERPs but I did know that I don’t have any other tasks before this one.
So, every week I wrote one article and sometimes I just did not. Yeah, I was a bit lazy. So, a few months in, I had around 30 articles in 4-5 months.
I was writing mostly on the popular keywords that were guaranteed to give some traffic if you could rank on the 1st-2nd page and the good thing was that in 2015, these keywords were not as competitive as they are right now.
Most of these articles included the “Best products” list but I didn’t know how to gather more and low competitive topics for new articles. So, I was stuck with 60-70 articles for the first whole year.
Also, I was waiting to see if I can get some traffic before I write more, or I would be just wasting time on writing more articles. This is the only thing that I knew about blogging when I started and knew very little about backlinks and content promotion.
Promotion On Social Media
After doing some basic work, I was waiting for some traffic to come but the organic traffic doesn’t come magically out of nowhere. So, I started promoting the articles by putting their links on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and whatever I knew.
It brought me nothing but disappointment and still is the case. Social media is not a good traffic source for niche websites and except for a few clicks, you are hardly going to make any sales.
I even tried to put links in various parts of Reddit and forums related to my niche but was getting banned quickly 😅.
However, I knew that I should have diversified links to look better in the eyes of Google. So, I kept sharing the articles just to make myself feel that I am doing my 100%.
Spamming The Comments Section
This is the step that worked like a charm for me. At some point in time, many pro bloggers also tried to spam the comments section of bigger websites.
Some websites used to give a dofollow attribution to the comment links but those days are gone. I tried my best to comment on whatever site I thought would allow putting my links into their “website” form.
This gave my site some link juice from those sites as the links were dofollow and my site authority started to increase gradually. However, one particular instance changed everything.
I don’t know if you know about the Disqus comment system, but I use to spam the comments section of one of the most popular and most commented websites in my niche on a regular basis.
I was having like one link in 3-4 different posts and just from those few links I was getting a daily traffic of 100-200 unique visits every day. I used to think if I am getting that much traffic just from the comments section, how much traffic the original site is receiving 🤔.
It remained like this for around 2 months until an evil thought came into my mind and I tried to spam even more links in different posts. But that proved to be fatal as all my links were deleted and I got permanently banned to comment on their site 🤭.
Good thing was that I already started gaining around 30 visits per day from Google before I started this spam thing and it was growing almost every day.
This was around July, 6 months after I created my website in Feb 2015. I also made my first buck from Adsense in June and $3 in July. I was so happy that finally I can have a cup of coffee with my own earned money 😄.
Started Manual Backlinking
As these small backlinks were giving me a boost in the SERPs, I read several guides on how to create backlinks but unfortunately, most of the reliable methods were not easy for me.
Reaching out for a guest post or creating content that is unique and the best on the web was impossible for me at that time.
So, I started doing the easier ones. These were mostly creating backlinks on directory websites, profile links, social media, donation websites, and the ones I used to get from comments.
I was aggressive for almost a few weeks and made a few dozen backlinks in this way. Meanwhile, when I was getting some organic traffic, I used to get some organic shares and backlinks on different forums and websites that were referencing my articles as a source to help others.
This further increased the rankings of my articles and to this day, some of them still rank on the first page.
I also tried getting hundreds of backlinks through Fiverr which proved to be of no use and I avoided them after I learned about their negative effects.
My rankings started to get better when the number of natural backlinks increased. These were a good mixup of nofollow and dofollow backlinks from blogs and forums.
My traffic was getting higher and higher every day, every week, and every month. Eventually, the traffic got up to an average of 700 visits per day excluding the surge in traffic on Christmas.
In the coming years, I would reach out to some international universities and get a few EDU links which were one of my best achievements.
At this time I was already earning a good amount by the end of 2015 which was mostly around $100-$150 per month. This was only Amazon US earnings and I earned some more bucks from Amazon UK, Canada, and Adsense.
That was sufficient for me as I live in India and I had very minimal expenses. It grew to more than $400 per month in December(paid in Feb) and increased every month at the start of 2016 as you can see from the screenshot below.
Updating Content Regularly Helped A Lot
To this date, updating articles regularly helps stabilize rankings in the SERPs and in some cases moves the article to a better position. It all depends on how you update and what you do next.
Well, this step can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as several hours depending on what you have to update in your article.
I used to update my articles every 2-3 months that were getting the most traffic and the rest, at least once a year.
Evergreen content also needs to get updated and improved with time but the articles with the most traffic were the key to generating more sales as people didn’t like to see old products being listed when the new ones are already around.
Along with updating the content, I would improve the internal linking structure and add more sections to the articles like explaining related stuff and FAQs.
However, not every article responded to this change in a positive way. Some articles needed to be short and precise. I also avoided filler content and adding too many related details that didn’t fall under the intentional searches of the readers.
Mixing Up Affiliate And Informative Articles
The content creation phase continued till today but the majority of the traffic is still driven by the first 50-60 articles. Sometimes less, sometimes more but eventually most of them would die with time and I had to write articles relevant to the latest trend and products.
Right now at the time of writing, I have over 800 posts, 30% of which are news articles and the rest are typical niche-related affiliate and informative posts.
800+ articles seem like a lot but as I said, every year a lot of them become irrelevant and don’t drive any traffic at all. Currently, only around 100 posts drive traffic and the rest are sitting idle.
I did not delete them because they are a track record of my hard work and I don’t believe it is beneficial to delete older content to get better at rankings as I tried this before but failed to achieve anything better.
Playing With Themes And Plugins
I used to spend several hours every month with the customizations. I don’t know about you but I love tweaking things and always wanted my website to look professional and catchy in content presentation.
I changed almost 5 themes in 8 years and never settled on one. In every theme, I changed the layout multiple times with each layout staying for a couple of months. My appetite for customization never ends.
In the beginning, I started with the free theme and you should too. I used the Colormag, Jannah, and the Rehub(current) themes to the fullest. Customized how each section of my website looked and experimented with the sidebars, header, and main content area.
The same story happened with plugins. I wanted the best table plugin, the best reference plugin, and the best buttons for my products.
I studied various case studies like one on Neilpatel.com on how the way a button looks can change the CTR but unfortunately, after making several types of buttons by coding, using different button plugins, and copying from other websites, the CTR had little to no effect.
This really depends on the niche you are going with. Amazon affiliate niche websites where you are just putting a “Buy On Amazon” button, most buttons, whether small, big, orange, or blue, will work almost similarly.
So, I finally settled with the AAWP plugin which is the easiest way to integrate your products in the articles just by putting the product ASIN.
Important Themes And Plugins I used:
- Rehub from Themeforest
- AAWP For Amazon Products
- AIOSEO for SEO purposes
- Elementor Pro for site customization
- WP Table Builder for creating rich tables
- Disqus(former) and wpDiscuz(active) for comments
- Shortcodes Ultimate for creating visual components
- Ad Inserter for inserting ads
There are a lot more plugins I use but all those depend on my site’s requirements.
The Phase Of Stable Earnings
Around 1.5-2 years later at the end of the 3rd quarter of 2016, my traffic maxed out at around 3000 visits on average per day. The surges above 4000 visits per day you are seeing in the analytics below are due to Black Friday and Christmas.
This had a great impact on my earnings and I earned around $4000 in November where 50% of the earnings were from just one week(Black Friday sales).
The earnings maxed out at around $5500 from Amazon US alone in December as you can see from the February 2017 payment(Associates are paid two months later).
This was crazy for me and my family. Coming from a middle-class family that was living on around $400-$500 per month, $4000-$5000 was no less than a dream.
The traffic stabilized at around 3000 visits per day and I was writing 4 articles per month max out of laziness and not knowing where should I focus next.
But this was a fatal mistake that eventually would take me to the downfall. This earning trend, however, continued for almost 2 years with every month bringing more than $3000 in revenue.
Modes Of Incomes
At this time my sources of income were only two: Amazon and Adsense. At that time there were no good ad networks like we have today.
I signed up for more Amazon Associates accounts for each country. Amazon US, UK, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Spain, and India are the countries that are still active on my website.
70% of my total Amazon income is generated from the US and the site enjoys 30% of the total traffic from this country.
Adsense was giving me almost nothing compared to the Amazon affiliate program. I was earning around $3000 consistently from Amazon affiliate while only $150 max from Adsense.
Therefore, at one time I decided to stop running ads on the website thinking that would increase the affiliate earnings as I read on some blogs that you should remove all the distractions.
Unfortunately, that had no effect on the conversions whatsoever. After a couple of months, I turned on the ads and when I came to know about Ezoic through an email they sent me, I signed up and started earning 2X more than Adsense.
Right now the site is earning through 5 different means- Amazon affiliate, Ezoic, Valueimpression, VideooTV, and occasional guest posting. However, I am still not even close to the earnings I used to have in the past which I am going to explain in the next section.
Valueimpression was one the best ad networks I have used till now. It gave me almost 1.5X more revenue than Ezoic as it has instream video ads that maximize the potential and doesn’t ruin the site’s look.
For some Ezoic works better but for some Valueimpression brings more revenue. It all depends on your niche and the way you integrate ads. I currently use these two ad networks together to maximize the profit and I don’t overdo it.
Videoo is another excellent source for some extra bucks that is entirely based on showing video ads along with your own website posts. These are integrated into your site in a way that you get the benefit of showing both the video ad and related posts in the same frame.
No other ads are displayed and you can earn $1-$2 per thousand pageviews with no other ad banner displayed from Videoo.
The First Downfall
One thing about online business is that just like any other offline stuff, it too falls to the ground at some point in time. Remember the site 10beasts.com which was the source of motivation for many newcomers?
My site also started going down and almost hit the floor a couple of times. It was so difficult to endure it for the first time.
There was no manual penalty, and no difference in rankings but Google’s core update changed something that resulted in a significant traffic drop by around 3X. As you can see below, something hit the site on 26th Aug 2017.
This trend continued and the site got hit multiple times in the following months finally settling at around 900-1000 visits per day at the beginning of 2018. It reduced to just 600-700 visits per day at the very start of 2019 and I was really depressed at that time.
The earnings dropped to $500-$600 per month including Amazon and Adsense. That was 5X less than what I was earning before!
So, you can imagine the pain. And it was not the pain of not being able to support myself or my family but it was the pain of seeing all that hard work going down the drain.
However, I didn’t give up because this was my primary source of income and still is. I also got married in 2019 and this site was all I had. As I never did a job and became an introvert, I just wanted to grind and make the site successful again.
Bringing The Site Back On Its Feet
I started to think out of the box and tried to find all the opportunities I could have.
I wrote articles that were related to the products but they were very specific queries that showed almost no search volume. This is why I consider all these keyword volume tools highly inaccurate.
A couple of articles gave me some traffic boost. I knew there was some good potential in these types of articles. So, I started writing more and more, and eventually, the traffic went to 2X in a few weeks instantly.
These types of articles are the only ones that have kept my site surviving all these years till today and they almost work every time except that the competition for these topics in my niche has become so high.
Currently, out of every 10 articles I write on such topics, 3-4 articles bring traffic and the rest sit idle or remain invisible in the SERPs though indexed.
This is the truth of blogging right now as Google is stricter and probably more stupid than ever in understanding the difference between original and AI/Crap content.
The website started to bring more revenue and it remained this way until COVID hit the world. Before that, I was earning around $1000-$1500 per month including all the income sources.
While most of the world was under a strict lockdown, many lost their livelihood. However, for me, it was the opposite.
My website started to gain more traffic and more sales and in the month of April 2020, I made a good $5000 that included $4000 from Amazon US alone plus Amazon commissions from different countries and ads.
The earnings came back to $1500-$2000 which was still decent and continued till the end of the year. At this time, I already made over $135,000 in total since the start!
The traffic went up and down the whole of 2021 as well but I was making a decent $600-$800 till the end of the year. However, as soon as the calendar hit January 2022, something changed drastically.
The Major Downfall
2022 started very roughly with only $150 in Amazon affiliate revenue. I was surprised and thought it might be seasonal but I was so wrong.
This trend continued the whole year and my Amazon affiliate clicks went from 300-400 clicks per day to 100-200 per day with a traffic of around 1000 visits per day. This was pretty obvious that something is wrong.
I checked all the settings and found out that it started right at the end of September 2021 but the conversion rate was pretty good at that time so, I didn’t bother.
This time, no one seemed to be interested in buying the products and suddenly on July 1st, 2022, everything dropped to the ground.
My site was hit by one of the several Google updates and I went from 800-1000 visits per day to 300 visits per day.
There was no manual penalty and nothing wrong with my site either. What I found was that 70% of my articles were out of the SERPs. While they were all indexed, they didn’t appear in the search engine at all.
This was looking so wrong on many levels and I saw many people sharing the same experience. I thought it was over, but soon Google thought that my site was ok and gave back the rankings after 2 weeks as you can see from the graph above.
Two weeks didn’t pass and Google my site again with another update or a stupid bug. I thought it would recover but 2 months passed away and there was no sign of recovery.
As you can see above, the whole of 2022 was the worst year ever for my website. I am still grateful that it didn’t die completely but the income which I used to generate in a month or two was the income of the whole year.
I thought it was over for me and I was ready to leave blogging because Google looked no longer reliable. However, my fellow bloggers convinced me to continue as it would be a big waste of my skills.
Refusing To Give Up
I gave it another try but as my site didn’t recover, I started another website by registering an expired domain and started my journey in a way that was way better than ever.
I will talk about that journey in a different post but my primary blog suddenly started to recover after 2 months but this time, Google didn’t recover all the content but only 60% of them.
40% was still missing from the SERPs but it gave me some hope. So, I started writing again and brought back the website to 1000 visits per day.
The earnings also increased and now I am earning somewhat around $500-$600 in total which is kinda fine but staying at one point will take me nowhere. I am still grinding to take the website to the next level.
It’s a pity that several of my articles are still in the sandbox not appearing in the SERPs but at least my site is back on its feet. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I hate Google so much because whenever I check the SERPs for my recent articles, only 20-30% of them appear despite waiting for several weeks and they are all fully indexed.
I did rigorous article writing for 3-4 months and published dozens of articles plus dozens of more posts scheduled to publish every day. I am planning to publish at least 1-2 articles every day which is very much possible but the only thing right now stopping me is Google’s improper inclusion of articles in the SERPs.
I feel pissed off and I had to slow down my article writing just because Google cannot index all the articles in one day.
I also created a completely new layout for my homepage to add significantly higher value to my blog. I am hoping to get some natural backlinks with this experiment and I know that it is totally possible.
At the same time, I am reaching out for high-quality backlinks which is the hardest part of SEO. It was much more difficult when I started but as my website gained more authority and improved in its content, asking for a backlink or a guest post is much easier than before.
If you think blogging is dead, you need to consider a lot of factors before you make a conclusion.
It can be said that blogging is not as easy as it was a few years ago but every year more opportunities come to our door. We only need to find the right one and the way to explore it.
Every year thousands of niche websites die and many are born but only a few survive for a long time. That’s because many expect some kind of ROI in a month or two.
The reality is that if you are starting a blog, you should at least wait for 6 months before you expect anything. In those 6 months, you should indulge in creating the maximum content according to a pre-made plan and creating backlinks to rank your blog faster.
If you found my niche blog’s case study motivating, comment down below and if you are also running a website, let me know how it is going.